Building a do-it-yourself home theater system may be much more enjoyable than you first imagine. The planning stage involves “what if I do like this,” and the feeling you have when you are unboxing your home theater equipment is indescribable.
You do not need to worry about hooking equipment to each other. The bottom line is every jack has its own plug and the possibility to go wrong and damage the equipment is zero (unless you are very talented). Believe me, hooking up a computer to the monitor and the electric outlets is more confusing than doing the same with a home theater system.
I have a personal recommendation here: use a high-quality surge protector. You will be investing a lot in your system, so do not leave it unprotected. If possible, it is better to connect the home theater system to a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply). If your UPS cannot deliver enough current for the entire system, then at least connect your LCD to the UPS. If you do not have a UPS at home, this maybe a good chance to consider one. If this is not the case, go with a surge protector.
In your planning, make sure that you have all designed all the connections and during the purchase you have gathered all the cables. You may receive some cables with the equipment, but you may want to use higher-quality ones. The highest quality cables have golden connectors and therefore their prices are higher than the other ones.
Hooking Everything Together
At this point I assume you have already received some professional help and installed your flat TV or projector according to your plan.
After you unbox the rest of your equipment, first place all the speakers in their place and lay the necessary cables. Cable covers (concealers) are good companions at this point to hide the free cables and give your room an aesthetically pleasant look. Do not make the connections now.
If you have purchased a DVD player, connect it to your TV and put in a DVD to make sure that it works. Then disconnect your DVD, and connect it to your AV receiver with a digital connection. Then connect your receiver to your TV or projector with an HDMI cable. Turn on the DVD player and the receiver and make sure that you see the movie on your TV. If you have connected your DVD player to the receiver with AV cables, you should also receive sound from the TV. If you only made a video connection, you will only see the movie. If this is the case, go ahead and connect your DVD player’s audio to the receiver’s audio with a digital connection. We are fine in both cases.
At this point, hook up the speakers to your receiver. Follow the instructions carefully and make sure that you connect the right speaker to the right port, such as connecting the front left speaker to the front left output.
These DVD - Receiver - TV connections are the backbone of our home theater system. We can go for connecting additional equipment to this system without any problems. For example, if you have purchased a Sony PlayStation 3, then you can connect your DVD to the receiver with a composite cable and an S/PDIF cable and the PlayStation to the receiver with an HDMI and a TOSLINK cable. As you see, all the procedure is basically disconnecting and reconnecting some cables.
For details about the connection types and cables, here is an article covering the issue extensively.
A do-it-yourself home theater is very rewarding. Everything will be “custom” and you have the opportunity to select all the components according to your wishes. Plus, you always have the opportunity to add more devices to the existing setup, such as a CD player and stereo speakers. Day by day you will make small changes here and there and finally arrive at the best setup for your needs - a do-it-yourself system, incidentally, that is impossible to find in one place on the market.
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This post is part of the series: Home Theater Basics
In this article series we take the reader step by step to building a home theater. The connections, devices, setup, layout will all be explained in detail and finally the reader is well equipped to build his own home theater system.